tv Politics Nation MSNBC July 17, 2014 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
rev, good evening. >> good evening, ed. what a day. thanks to you for tuning in. i'm live tonight in las vegas. tonight's lead, nbc news reports malaysia flight 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. it is unclear who launched the missile. here's what we do know. the boeing 777 was traveling from amsterdam to kuala lumpur when it crashed into eastern ukraine near the russian border. this area has been the site of fighting between ukraine and pro-russian separatists. now the u.s. intelligence experts are trying to determine if the missile was launched by russians or rebels inside ukraine. there were 295 people aboard, including 280 passengers and 15 crew members. the u.s. is investigating if
there were any americans on the plane. president obama inviand vice president biden spoke this afternoon. >> i don't have all the details yet. i want to be sure of what i say. apparently have been shot down. shot down, not an accident. blown out of the sky. >> the plane had been traveling at 33,000 feet before it went down. the wreckage stretches over nine miles and one rescue worker said at least 100 bodies have been found at the scene. ukrainian officials are calling it a terrorist attack. they say the plane was hit with a russian-made missile system. the separatists say it could have been the ukrainian government. russian media sven suggesting
that president putin may have been the target the. right now in the ukraine it's just past 1:00 in the morning. there is a scene of true horror on the ground. joining me now are msnbc military analyst colonel jack jacobs, former ntsb investigator greg fife and former american airlines pilot jay rollins. thank you for being here. >> good evening, reverend. >> colonel jacobs, let me start with i don't uh. nbc news says intelligence officials have determined this was a missile. what's your reaction to that? >> almost undoubtedly a missile. we probably know exactly where it came from because we pass satellites over the area almost continuously since the difficulties started between russia, ukraine and the separatists. we have been looking at it almost continuously which is why
the vice president could say with certainty that it was a missile that destroyed the plane. we probably know exactly where it came from. it will be interesting to see when we decide to announce where it came from. i think we already know. >> what kind of missile would this have had to be, colonel? it was 33,000 feet in the air. what kind of missile is capable of taking the plane down? >> most people have in mind shoulder-fired weapon we see from time to time on the battlefield. this was almost undoubtedly an improved sa-6 or sa-11 of the type you see on screen. it has a slant range of 72,000 feet which means from the point it leaves the ground to its maximum effective range where where it can hit a target is about 10 miles or so. it's radar guided. the target is acquire bid radar and terminally guided by radar. it's got a proximity fuse.
that means it doesn't are have to hit the target. the warhead can explode near the target, maybe as far as 50 or 70 meters away and it can still damage or destroy the aircraft. it's usually fired against high-flying aircraft, although because it has such a speed it can attack lower flying aircraft. it is an older weapon, but clearly effective. particularly against aircraft where it's not being jammed. >> greg fife, you are an experienced investigator. what does the ground wreckage tell you? >> reverend, one of the things the investigators, of course, will be looking at now since this is a criminal act. it is no longer a conventional accident investigation is selecting the physical evidence that will support this crime. they will be looking for fragments of the missile. they will be looking to see what kind of damage was incurred to the aircraft that rendered it
incapacitated and the crew could not control the airplane. because of the volatile area -- that is, the war zone it's in and the debris spread over nine to ten miles, it will be difficult for investigators to have immediate access because of the threat or risk to human life. this is a criminal investigation. no longer an accident investigation. >> ukrainian officials say this was the work of a book missile system, a russian-made anti-aircraft missile system designed to target low and high flying aircraft. it can reach up to 72,000 feet. colonel, an a prk report arer saw one of the missiles in a rebel area. would they have known how to use this? >> yes and no. it's an interesting question. yes, they would have been able to use it.
they were trained. beg able to use it on the one hand and having the fire discipline you expect disciplined troops to have is something else entirely. this is a scenario that says they have the button and the rocket. but they don't have discipline. we don't know what the rules of engagement are for the rebels or the russians in the region. it's possible they saw a target and, ignoring completely a beacon that identified this as a civilian aircraft pressed the button and let her fly. you have a tragedy as a result of good equipment and lousy discipline. >> you're a pilot. this is an area in eastern ukraine where a lot of fighting has been going on. it must have been a very, very nervous situation for any pilot to even be flying over this area.
>> there is a question as to why they were flying in the area. the f.a.a. put out a warning to prohibit american aircraft from flying in the area. i don't know why the malaysians would have continued flying in that area. they are not under the auspices of the f.a.a., but it wouldn't seem a safe thing to do if a major organization like the f.a.a. had told its pilots not to fly there. having said that, there are arrangements in various hot spots around the world. american airlines continued to fly over cue pa, even when we had a lot of disputes going on with the united states. those things are arranged ahead of time. the passage has been cleared ahead of time. sometimes those countries have been actually paid a fee.
when a major organization like the f.a.a. says not to fly there it is surprising the malaysians would fly there. yet there must have been other aircrafts in the area are as well. >> you have flown 33,000 feet many times. you are a pilot. is there any warning, any way you would have known a missile was coming where you could have taken evasive action. >> no. not unless the missile was coming from are the front of the aircraft it's unlikely you would have are warning whatsoever. i suspect when the missile hit no one on board knew what happened. >> let me go back to you, greg. this is a site of a lot of conflict. how does it make the investigation go? >> it will be difficult -- >> who would do the investigations is another part of the same question. >> absolutely.
the fact that the wreckage is in a volatile area and accessibility is difficult, that's going to present challenges to whoever the investigative authority or authorities are that gets into the area. there have been early report that is even the cockpit or flight data recorder have been absconded by somebody. the question is who and what intent do they have with that. because this is a crime, most likely and because we have had multinational passengers on the airplane to presumably include 23 americans, there's going to be a lot of different factions from the fbi to similar organizations around the world who are going to want to have access. the question is how big a team do you put in there and how much risk are you willing to take on to try to support a crime theory, if you will. >> a lot of local people have
been walking through the debris. how will that affect the investigation? >> any time you have a lot of civilians like that or in this case possibly rebels of both sides, a lot of the valuable information that investigators would need to support a crime theory or intentional act could be disappearing as we speak. that's ap area that there is no security. they will do what they want to do. if you have locals who decide to tie to sal are advantage parts of the metal and everything else for their own purposes there could be very little wreckage. we have seen it in the past in these volatile areas. in the jungle where parts of the plane have disappeared because the locals have taken them. there may not be a lot of good evidence that investigators will be able to work with. >> colonel jacobs, the united states is determined that this airplane was shot down by this missile. how would they determine who shot the missile? >> well, it might be difficult,
but it might not. it depends on whether or not we have a good view of the border area at the time the missile was fired. if we do, resolution can be very, very good down to extremely small distances. down to a foot or less even from some satellites. we ought to be able to tell whether it was fired from the russians or the rebels. it's unlikely it was fired by the ukrainians but it could have been fired by the rebels. >> jay, would you as a pilot be able to determine at this point whether or not there was anything at all the pilots could have done upon impact? i would imagine there was nothing they could do at that point. >> no. even if the pilots knew there was a missile launched at them,
they would only have are seconds to react. in an aircraft the size of a 777 airliner is not that maneuverable. especially to move quickly like a fighter might and therefore you're lumbering along. they are going in a straight line. it's an easy shot for a missile. there is very little that a pilot could do at that point. >> all right. well, thank you very much, greg fife, colonel jacobs and jay rollins, please stay with us. coming up, why would someone want to shoot down a plane with a surface to air missile? we'll have more on the investigation and we'll go live to the pentagon. and how did we get there? we look at the rising tensions between russia and ukraine. president obama called this a terrible tragedy. what challenge does this president have to his foreign policy agenda? stay with us.
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a region torn apart by war and rivalry between russia and ukraine. the most recent crisis erupted in february when russia planned to take over the crimean peninsula. crimea officially broke away to join russia in march. since then tensions have gotten worse, hitting a new peak this week. on sunday a russian man was killed by a shot fired from are the ukrainian border. the next day a ukrainian military transport plane was shot down. on tuesday, 11 people were killed in ukraine in a russian air strike. yesterday, ukraine alleges that russia shot down one of their
fighter jets. and, today, the crisis spilled over to claim a plane full of innocent people. back with me now are cornell jack jacobs and greg fife. joining us is nina krscheva, great-grand daughter of niki nikitakruschev. who would benefit from shooting this plane down? >> i can imagine only the separatists might think they benefit from that plane they shot down. because basically none of them are well military trained or not necessarily very disciplined people. for them it could be a bragging right that they were able to use this big missile.
but i do believe when they finally realize they shot down not a military plane as they probably thought they were shooting at but a commercial plane of a foreign country with many foreigners on board, people not involved, i'm sure even they got chills down their spine. i don't see anybody else who would benefit from a horrible -- >> so is are you suggesting that maybe this was a mistake? >> well, it's not a mistake. somebody shot that plane. >> i mean in terms of a mistake that they didn't think it was a commercial -- >> i don't think they knew. it was one of those fogs of war. they have been shooting at planes since monday. even before that probably some eager person who was trying to
show off. i don't know. maybe they had a drinking bout the day before. who knows what's happening there? it's really not a disciplined group of people. even if it came from the russian side, i can't imagine these were orders of anybody high up in the military and maybe was an undisciplined event that happened either on the russian side or pro russian side, on the side of the border with ukraine. >> now, colonel, that's consistent with what you said in the last segment. >> you try to put yourself in a position of young people who are not necessarily well trained enough to use the equipment. not well trained to integrate it into a battle. not particularly well disciplined. not particularly well led. because we don't the know how
the troops are controlled at the lowest possible level what the rules of engagement are. you can easily see how this can be -- this tragedy could unfold simply because people aren't smart enough to control their own troops. when you put sophisticated equipment in the hands of people who can just barely use it but can't integrate it into a battlefield operation, this is the kind of thing that happens. it's liable, if not likely to happen again which is why the united states, western countries said don't fly over this area. >> greg, let me ask you. will they try to reconstruct this plane, put it back together to determine where it was hit? how will they proceed in the investigation? >> i think they are only going to put the airplane back together again as far as a reconstruction is concerned enough to give them a level of confidence as to what type of
explosive -- as the colonel talked about, this warhead didn't necessarily need to strike the aircraft. it could have been detonated in close proximity. they may want to understand what part of the aircraft the missile had affected the most which rendered it incapacitated. the remnants of the missile, as the colonel described, they will want to find those only to see if they can backtrack whose missile it was to determine the origin. >> nina, let me go back to you in terms of russia and the rebels. are they rebels under russian control? are they getting missiles from russia? how close are the russians controlling the rebels or are the rebels now outside of russian control if they ever were? >> well, they were under russian control and probably more so early on. i think in earlier parts of the crisis, vladimir putin didn't decide -- let me put it this
way. he hasn't decided yet how he's going to play out the situation with the rebels in ukraine. so they were certainly either controlled or assisted. there was always hope for them that russia may take them under its wing exactly the way russia did take crimea in march. but it became increasingly clear putin wasn't going to take over the surrounding regions. in fact, there were calls for putin being a traitor. i think it escalated back because it seemed putin was sort of backing away from the conflict and trying to blame it on the ukrainian government saying you need to negotiate with the rebels. i have nothing to do with that. after one person was killed on the russian side, i think that somehow really gave another -- put more air into those rebels'
wings and also probably made russia more concerned about its fight with ukraine that putin didn't want to have a military one. but now it's escalated as of sunday. that's where we are atle. >> now putin said, nina, this would not have are happened had there been peace in the area. not directly blaming ukraine for the shooting down of the plane, but saying they caused the overall atmosphere and therefore they are responsible for what's happening. >> this is putin's trademark. he's basically standing as if he's not involved in this, as if he didn't start any of this. when he convinced russia -- convinced then ukraine's president to cancel the association agreement with the european union and go with russia. he's directly responsible for
any of this regardless of how much ordering he's giving to those rebels and ukraine or not. so this is a very putin thing to do, to step back and say, well, this is ukraine's problem. we, as a great russia should held them. once again, i think it is very telling that he was from all the leaders he was the last one, in fact, to speak. barack obama spoke to the people. president poroshenko spoke, the ukrainian president. putin was the last one to speak and said he would assist in the investigation. i wouldn't be -- you know, holding my breath thinking putin are will be helpful for the investigation. he will try to take it to his own advantage. >> all right, thank you both for your are time tonight. >> thank you. >> jack jacobs, please stay with me. coming up, if the malaysia
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in fact, shooting down civilian planes happens with disturbing frequency in this part of the world. in 1993 separatist rebels used missiles to shoot down three separate planes in the former soviet republic of georgia. in 2001, the ukrainian military accidentally shot down a russian airplane over the black sea. that's the history behind today's tragedy. coming up, the challenge for the obama administration. what should the president do in response? how will it affect u.s. relations with russia? stay with us. over 20 million kids everyday in our country lack access to healthy food. for the first time american kids are slated to live a shorter life span than their parents. it's a problem that we can turn around and change. revolution foods is a company we started
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that is our first priority. i directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the ukrainian government. the united states will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why. as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers wherever they call home. >> president obama today offering assistance to the ukrainian government. since the start of the crisis in february, president obama has warned president putin against any military intervention in ukraine. many republicans have called for a stronger response warning military force. some even attacking the president as weak and blaming him for the crisis. just yesterday he placed new sanctions on russia. he has clearly not wanted to get involved in overseas conflicts. but today, will this tragedy change that?
joining me now from the white house is nbc news white house correspondent kristen welker. good evening. tell us, what's the latest? >> we have breaking news at this hour. i can tell you president obama, who is in new york right now attending two fundraisers. upon arriving in new york he placed a phone call to his national security team. he also called secretary of state john kerry. in both phone calls he discussed the tragedy of the downed malaysia airlines flight. in speaking with his national security team he said the goal right now is to get international investigators to the region to help out in the investigation as quickly as possible. vice president joe biden earlier today said ukraine had accepted the u.s.'s offer for help in its investigation. he said those international investigators are ready to move immediately. president obama, again, when he
spoke from delaware earlier today, you heard him say the top priority is determining whether there were, in fact, americans on board that flight. >> right. >> i can tell you behind the scenes here at the white house, senior administration officials have been working urgently the to try to determine that very fact, to figurer out if there were americans on board. as you pointed out this comes a day after president obama announced the stiffest sanctions yet against russia for ramping up the crisis in ukraine are. senior officials say russia has escalated the crisis by providing more heavy arms to the spraetists. there is deep concern on both sides of pennsylvania avenue this hour that it could be the work of russia separatists. i emphasize that because they don't know who is responsible for bringing down this plane. lawmakers expressing concern including dianne feinstein who said if this is the work of separatists, if there is a link to russia it would be concerning
and would clearly add new tension to a fraught situation between the united states and russia. >> well, we thank you for your time tonight. certainly this is a great tragedy. >> indeed. >> we are also concerned to find if any americans were on board. now i would reich like to bring in the washington post's e. e.j. dionne and janine davidson, senior fellow at the council on foreign relations. thank you for being here. >> good to be here. >> how could today's news affect american policy? >> well, i think the first thing we have to figure out is how this happened. all signs -- probably a miscalculation. it could be the russian are separatists. we can't sure. we'll find out. if it is russian separatists, it
seems like it could have been a miscalculation. that's important to understand. it doesn't seem like there is much motive to want to shoot down an airliner. if they thought it was a military transport plane, you know, that was probably what would have been happening. so i think the first order of business is finding out what happened and why. will it change the order? it could. it could very well. it's important to understand that just yesterday we announced a new level of sanctions that are definitely going to bite. my sense is that the president will want to know what's happening, know how it happened, see what the level of sanctions pressures are and so is to see the degree to which vladimir putin has control are over the people who will turn out to be responsible. >> e.j., you know the president has been walking a tight rope on this issue. what might have changed in president obama's foreign policy
today? >> he has to show toughness and restraint at the same time. we've got to be clear on what happened before we know exactly what to do. but i think what may have changed is it may be easier to get the europeans involved in even tougher measures against russia. let's assume, and we don't know everything yet. let's assume this was the rebels in the ukraine using russian-provided weapons. that's a huge problem. hillary clinton just a little while ago was on charlie rose's show and said, europeans have to be the ones to take the lead on this. there should be outrage in european talls. the sun has its headline tomorrow in london, "putin's missile." certainly ratcheting up sanctions on russia is a real possibility.
putin's got to take some responsibility for arming the rebels, even if -- and janine may well be right -- that this was an accident. this is not the kind of accident that ought to happen. >> janine, when we hear what e.j. is saying that mrs. clinton said, the president has been asking europe to get involved. they have been very reluctant to do so thus far. does this put pressure on this? will it change things in europe? >> i think e.j. is right. when you look at what's happening, you have the eastern europeans who have been worried and kit call in asking for help. that's all very good. meanwhile the western europeans have been like, yeah, this is going to be tough for us economical economically.
we're not sure. this has been really hard for the obama administration. if this tragedy says anything it's look, war zones are dangerous places. this is happening right in our backyard. it's a three-hour flight from where we live. something has to happen. we have to resolve the conflict. it give it is obama administration more leverage to get the europeans on board. >> e.j., you have covered a lot of presidents. clearly this president has a confluence of foreign affairs issues on his plate. every president has a full plate. there is a real confluence of issues here. >> i think he has about four or five plates in front of him. you heard people talking today. you weren't clear whether they were talking about what was happening in gaza or what was happening in ukraine. meanwhile there were negotiations with the irans. this is a messy time.
i think the president -- you know, i think the president has pursued reasonable policies in these places, as you and janine said, he's trying to get the europeans to be tougher on putin. he ought to use it as an opportunity to present to the world his foreign policy and the underlying toughness that he has here. there are things we can do and things we can't do. a lot of this conflict is not obama's fault. i hope we don't go political on day one and start blaming people for the strike. no american politician fired a missile at that plane. the president can use this to say, look, here is what i'm doing. he gave a foreign policy speech this year. he could do another one for what to do to keep the chaos in the
world from really harming us and to try to bring order here. >> e.j. and janine are from the council of foreign relations, thank you for your time tonight. >> good to be with you, reverend. >> my pleasure, thank you. >> coming up, a live report from the pentagon. stay with us. ♪ [ cat meows ] ♪ ♪ da-da-da-da-da, bum-da, bum-da ♪ ♪ bum-da, bum-da ♪ the animals went in two by two ♪ ♪ the sheep and the frog and the kangaroo ♪ ♪ and they all went marching, marching in two by two ♪ ♪ [ male announcer ] the nissan pathfinder, with intuitive four-wheel drive. an adventure worth sharing. nissan. innovation that excites.
nbc news reporting tonight the malaysian plane was shot down with a surface-to-air missile. but who fired it? joing me now is nbc news chief pentagon correspondent jim milajewski. >> they are trying to figure out who fired the shot that brought down the malaysian airliner. were they ukrainian separatists or the military? no matter who pulled the trigger it was a russian weapon. u.s. spy satellites saw heat signatures, infrared satellites that detect explosions or missile launches.
they detected the first launch of the s.a.m. or surface-to-air missile. then the subsequent impact when it exploded as it the airplane. they have been working on that theory all die daye long. they are trying to figure out who fired the shot. earlier this week there was a russian cargo plane brought down in ukraine by a similar missile system. that is really what contributed to president obama's decision to clamp down and impose even tougher sanctions against the russians just yesterday. >> well, jim, thank you, this is interesting. thank you for your time tonight. joining me now is msnbc's law enforcement analyst jim cavanaugh. jim, from a law enforcement perspective how do they go about
investigating on the ground what happened? >> well, reverend, just like in any criminal investigation or big investigation of a downed airplane you want to get to the scene. the debris holds forensic answers. but i would caution you're not going to get many answers that we normally think about because a missile shot it downment there are no answers on the plane bs on board the aircraft, in the possession of passengers, terrorists, an accidental cause. the answers are on the ground at the missile launch site. our intelligence agencies and satellite agencies picked up the heat signature. what you've got to understand, we know the exact gps location of the heat signature. what we know based on what mick reported is whether that was in ukrainian territory or the
country of russia. we know that because they know where are the signature is. >> jim cavanaugh, stay right there. we have much more coming up with you and fanl. stay with us. we'll be right back with more on the breaking news. what will happen on the ground in ukraine over the next 24 hours? ♪ [music] defiance is in our bones. defiance never grows old. citracal maximum. easily absorbed calcium plus d. beauty is bone deep.
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how much dirt can we manufacture? more than you think. very little. [ doorbell rings ] what's this? what's that? swiffer sweeper. [ lee ] i came in under the assumption that it was clean. i've been living in a fool's paradise! back now with my panel, colonel jack jacobs, jay rollins and jim cavanaugh. let me go to you first, jim. what's next? what can we expect to know by the time we awaken in the morning? >> i think you are going to see what your feed is showing, re are rend al. public safety officials certainly from uh ukraine on the scene. but the area is reportedly still
controlled by pro russian rebels. the colonel can speak to that extensively. i think they will recover pieces of the plane and probably evidence it was struck by the missile. i think we should be reasonable to ourselves that there is not going to be any great criminal forensic answers on the plane if it was struck by a surface-to-air missile from a vehicle, you know, in the hands of russian military or pro russian rebels. the answer is on the ground are, satellite images and what diplomats can arrange with russia. as a final thought, reverend al, the white house has been cool on this and that's what's needed. direct talks with the russian president. get the missile batteries back across and at least in the hands of the russian military and the colonel, i think, could comment well on that as well. >> colonel, let me ask you this. even if the russians didn't shoot it down directly, we have
heard they supplied weapons. how important will that be going forward? >> it's very important to everybody. the rest of the world. but putin is tone deaf. he's got 65% of his population support just about everything he does. he doesn't care very are much, evidently, about what the world thinks about him. and so far he's impervious to any of the economic constraints we placed on him. i can't imagine that he's going to act in a responsible way. i don't think you will get much support from the russians in investigating this. i think it is unlikely he will try to pull back any of the weapon and put them under the control of the russian army and leave the rebels without any surface-to-air capability. in short, i don't think much will change from the russian standpoint and that's going to be unsatisfactory to the west. somebody earlier made an
interesting point. it may have been nina who said that what this may wind up doing is invigorating the europeans who so far have been very lukewarm to restrictions placed on russia. it may get them all fired up to participate with the united states in stronger constraints on the russian economy. but, you know, the europeans have very strong economic ties to russia, particularly in fossil fuels. they've got long-term oil and gas contracts and so on. despite the fact that we really wish the europeans would get serious about putting restrictions on the russians. unfortunately i don't think you will see much of it. >> jay rollins you have been a pilot a long time. this is heart wrenching to look at that time pictures. you, as a pilot who has flown all over the world, this must
really affect you even more deeply. >> it's a great tragedy, reverend al. unfortunately when you lose 295 innocent people who didn't see it coming, it is an extreme tragedy. i do believe the international civil aviation organization will be attempting to get in there and investigate to try to determine what ought to be next. at some point there were discussions about equips airliners with anti-missile technology. i don't know if that will be the answer in this case. they talked about that when the shoulder missiles were popular. it's a very big problem. i'm sure most carriers will be ending travel in the area now.
>> what are the investigators asking tonight, jim cavanaugh? >> well, they are tying to build on the information that the government has publically provided that it was a missile launch. if they could get to the scene they will want to look at the airframe, fuselage, damage, blast evidence. the black boxes which seem to be prosecute from public reports in the hands of pro russian separatists, i doubt we'll see those. they will be taken by the russian ares and never be released. not that there would be necessarily anything on there anyway. if a missile struck the airplane there wouldn't be much on the black box anyway. >> we don't know what happened yet, colonel. whatever happened is so despicable and unthinkable in the 21st century. innocent people like this. it's a tragedy beyond words. i want to thank my panel. thank you for watching.
i'm al sharpton. "hardball" starts right now. good evening. i'm chris matthews. the two big stories of the night. on any other night we would lead with israel's invasion of gaza and all its dire consequences. but we are beginning our coverage with an update on the jet liner horror over war-torn ukraine. malaysian airlines flight 17 en route from amsterdam to kuala lumpur with 295 people aboard was flying normally at its cruising altitude of 33,000 feet when it suddenly disappeared from radar over eastern ukraine today. you are looking at the latest images from the crash site. there are no reports of any survivors. senior u.s. officials tell nbc news it was shot down